At a cursory glance there don’t seem to be many similarities between the Åland islands and the Outer Hebrides but on closer inspection they are much more alike than they first appear…
Both island groups were shaped by glaciations during the last Ice Age and both are linguistically and culturally distinct from their “parent” countries. The Åland islands are distinctly Swedish just as the Hebrides are distinctly Gaelic. They also have a comparable population size and density and suffer from the same problems that face all small isolated communities in the 21st century.
This joint exhibition by four Finnish artists, Satu Kiljunen, Pive Toivonen, Vesa-Pekka Rannikko and Santeri Tuori, is based around that idea of place, an island. The island of Kökar is in the eastern archipelago of the Åland Islands and for these four artists it has been the source of artistic inspiration and a place where they can work undisturbed.
Situated far from the Finnish mainland and far even from the main island of Åland, Kökar, with its 300 inhabitants, provides a unique visual environment for artistic work, especially when it is based on observations of nature.
Owing to the small number of trees on the island, the 980 million-year-old bedrock is visible. Its forms were shaped by the Continental ice sheet as it melted and retreated to the north 15,000 years ago. Despite its ruggedness, Kökar is home to a rich and diverse flora and fauna.
In 2006 John MacLeod, an artist from the Hebrides, visited Kökar as the international artist in residence. That residency led to this exhibition in Stornoway and in the summer of 2009, Kakelhallen in Mariehamn will be the venue for an exhibition by artists whose works take the Hebrides as their starting point.
Satu Kiljunen & Pive Toivonen will be hosting a talk about their work, the current exhibition and life in the Åland islands following the exhibition opening at an Lanntair on Friday evening, the 16th of May at 7.30pm. All are welcome to attend.